Huskies end WSU’s bid for Pac-12 North title

Cougars finish regular season with nine wins for second time in three years


ABBY LINNENKOHL | The Daily Evergreen

Then-redshirt sophomore running back James Williams avoids UW's defense during the 2017 Apple Cup.

DYLAN GREENE, Evergreen assistant sports editor

WSU football lost its fifth straight Apple Cup to University of Washington on Saturday, falling 41-14 to the Huskies. For the Cougars, the loss means WSU will not represent the Pac-12 North in the conference title game.

The Cougar offense did not put up any points until the fourth quarter as a steady rain fell over Husky Stadium throughout the night. WSU (9-3, 6-3) scored two late touchdowns in the final 10 minutes to narrow the Huskies’ (10-2, 7-2) margin of victory.

Redshirt senior quarterback Luke Falk threw three interceptions as 10 of 13 Cougar drives ended in a punt or a turnover. He said the offense didn’t perform well enough to force a rematch with University of Southern California in the conference championship game.

“They executed, and we didn’t,” Falk said. “If we got any points on the board in the first half, maybe the momentum would have switched, but we just weren’t able to do that, or put it in play to get things rolling.”

WSU’s senior quarterback said he was disappointed to finish the game with 369 passing yards.

“When you turn the ball over four times, it is not a good game,” he said. “I don’t think I played that well. I had to give my team a chance and I didn’t do that.”

WSU Head Coach Mike Leach said the blame for the team’s performance doesn’t fall solely on Falk’s shoulders. He was sacked five times for a combined loss of 38 yards against the Huskies.

“[Falk] was getting hit non-stop,” Leach said. “The notion that Luke is the only guy that played bad is ridiculous. I didn’t feel like we, collectively the whole game, played well at any position.”

The Cougar defense held UW to seven points in the first quarter of the game while WSU totaled 24 yards. The Huskies scored two touchdowns and a field goal in the second quarter to extend the team’s lead to 24-0 by halftime.

WSU received the ball to start the third quarter, and the Cougars punted away on their opening possession. UW took about four minutes off the clock as the Huskies eventually kicked a 34-yard field goal on their opening drive of the half.

Cougar redshirt junior defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa was flagged for targeting and thrown out of the game on that drive by UW.

WSU junior safety Hunter Dale didn’t think Mata’afa’s hit on UW junior quarterback Jake Browning was worthy of an ejection.

“Personally, I didn’t think that it was targeting, but the refs called it,” Dale said. “Not much we can do with it but move on.”

WSU’s defense allowed the Huskies to rack up 421 yards, including 328 on the ground. UW junior tailback Myles Gaskin rushed for 192 yards and four touchdowns in the game.

Leach said his team may have let the magnitude of the game effect their play.

“The biggest thing is we went out there and we played anxious and squandered all kinds of opportunities in the first half,” Leach said. “Then it became a series of over-corrections after that.”

Dale said the stakes of the game affected the defense’s ability to execute.

“You could definitely tell that people wanted to play good and really wanted to go to the Pac-12 Championship,” he said. “You could kind of see out there that people were trying to overplay, do other people’s jobs and trying to make that one tackle or play that they thought would win the game.”

With the regular season over, the Cougars will wait to hear what bowl game they will be selected to play in. WSU redshirt senior running back Jamal Morrow said the Apple Cup loss is disappointing, but the team is looking forward to rebounding in the postseason.

“You play this whole season for it to come down to this game and to play like we did, it sucks,” Morrow said. “You just have to take it and move on and get ready for our bowl game.”